Post 73: The three principles of obtaining clothing second hand: Uniformity, Usablity and Uniqueness. Taking apart a French wool Saint James sweater and turning it up-side-down and re-inventing it into a skirt : Raw Cashew/Almond Berry Dream Cake, nut blueberry tort

IMG_20150307_191919#1I have fond memories of Jean Seberg, a truly classic beauty who lived a short  tragic life. This striped orange and charcoal brown French nautical sweater reminded me of her. How many French actors and personalities wore the sweaters called “Saint James”? Just continue reading.

Try to see from the photo how well the sweater is constructed. The yarn is woven by a method called a “double knit”.

That quality drew me to inspect the sweater further. The sweater was found in the “discard” bag in a local gemach, a second hand store. Unless you take a razor with you to the shop to open a seam, you would not pick up on the special sewing technique employed in the sweater’s construction. The following yarn about yarn is from the Saint James site.

Yarn control
This is the first essential step. Each batch of thread received at our factory is rigorously tested before being knitted: humidity, resistance, color and several other characteristic must all be approved – if one batch does not match all the requirements it will be discarded. Once the tests are over, each batch will be coded so that we can always trace a garment to its batch of thread. (So you see, fabric and yarn are quite fascinating subjects). (All theri wool  sweaters are double knit. I don’t know about the cotton):

  1. Double knitting is a form of knitting in which two fabrics are knitted simultaneously on one pair of needles. The fabrics may be inseparable, as in interlock knitted fabrics, or they can simply be two unconnected fabrics

  2. The fabric is the same front side and backside rendering the wool knit waterproof.

From decade old mechanical to the latest technologies dozen of looms stand in the Saint James factory, each knitting a different type of panel: from simple on mechanical machines, to structured and more imaginative stitches on the latest machine. The body (front and back) ; the sleeves, the collar and trims are knitted separately but always with yarn from originating from the same batch in order to guarantee color matching on each garment. Impurities, whether of natural origin or not, incrusted in the yarn are manually removed by hand after each garment coming out of the manufacturing unit is inspected individually.

For a sweater, and even more for a cardigan, an impressive number of steps if taken in order to insure the quality of each Saint James’ garment:

  • Upon leaving the knitting unit, each knitted parts is steam sprayed in order to stabilize the size and prevent shrinkage during wash.

  • For parts that are not knitted to size, knitted elements are stacked and then cut-to-size using a wooden pattern.

  • Assembly of elements: stitching, overcast seam, stitching of collars or buttoned strips, sewing of labels. When I took the sweater apart I observed that the sweater came apart and gave off a double wool thread, which surprised me. That thread I used to hand stitch. These precision tasks require all the know-how handed down to seamstresses generation after generation. (It takes an average of 4 years to train a seamstress at Saint James, no school for our art exists in France anymore and all operators are trained in the factory).

  • Each garment is inspected prior to the creation of buttonholes and the attachment of buttons.

  • Ironing is the last step before a garment can finally leave Saint James.

I know that in a Gemach ( a second-hand store where items are sold for the equivalent of a dollar or two), it is difficult to make snap judgements, the lighting is poor and one can overlook a moth-hole.

Three principles are my guide to purchasing or even to picking up a discarded article that is my size for inspection: 1) Uniformity of fabric in color and texture, little or no pilling, fading, or un-frayed edges and seams. If seams are frayed chances are they will open. Fabric near the seams and zipper should be inspected. By running your fingers over the zipper you can spot a weak link even though the zipper works. If you point such a spot out to the sales lady you will usually get the garment for free especially if it’s the end of the season. Obviously, holes, stains come under this category and render a garment unsalvageable, unless you absolutely love the color fabric and want to cut up the garment or re construct it. 2) Useful. That’s obvious. 3)Unique.

Many varieties of the classic cotton variety stripped Saint James sweater varity were worn by, James Dean, Jean Seberg, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel, Picasso, Gene Kelly. and many more…

 A Little History… In Saint-James, circa 1850, the Legallais family’s spinning plant, Les Filatures de Saint-James, began producing the yarn for the fisherman sweater, fostering its popularity and transforming this regional expertise into a successful industry. To this day, the Saint James atelier and factory is still located in the small village of Saint James, (population: 3000).

Although the sweater is a classic, it wool incarnation does not serve very well in Israel, where crossing the street on a rainy day is the extent of my daily water navigation. With limited space, the sweater, which was acquired free at the end of the winter season last year from a Gemach, will be reconstructed.


I just guess that a Parisian  Jew brought this sweater to Israel and discarded it (almost new) when there were few opportunities to wear it
My design is to change the sweater into a straight skirt required opening the signature nautical Breton shoulder opening.

Here is the finished skirt; the waist is the former hem. The buttons and buttonholes create the new hem of the skirt. The side seam is now the center seam. The sleeve cuffs filled in areas near the hem and facings were added.


As you can see the buttons of the neckline have been integrated into the skirt hem

Adapted From MyNewRoots Cashew Dream Cake

IMG_20150306_111819Raw Cashew/Almond  Berry Dream Cake

1 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft Medjool dates or 1/4 cup date syrup/or minced dried fruit
¼ tsp. sea salt

1 1/3 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours, overnight is best
juice of 2 lemons
the seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract)
1/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw honey (solid or liquid.)(Vegans use agave nectar.) Or fruit jelly.
1 cup raspberries/ blueberries. (thaw completely if using frozen)

1. Place nuts and dates/syrup in a food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness (process a finer crust longer than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. Scoop out half crust mixture in a 7” spring-form pan and the second half in a pie plate lined with saran wrap), and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout. Rinse food processor well.

2. Warm coconut oil and honey/agave, sugar substitute in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid. Whisk to combine.Or alternatively use a microwave.

3. In the most powerful food processor / blender you own (you decide which one has the most torque) place all filling ingredients (except fruit)) and blend on high until very smooth (this make take a couple minutes so be patient). If you have a Vita-Mix, absolutely use it.

4. Pour about 2/3 (just eyeball it, you can’t make a mistake!) of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the raspberries/fruit to the remaining filling and stir. Pour onto the first layer of filling. Place in freezer until solid.

5. Remove and hold saran nut layer on top and release it onto the fruit layer. Pat in place and return to freezer.

6. To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the freezer (what leftovers?).



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